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Install Dual-Boot of Windows Vista + XP + Win98/Me on Windows Vista computer
(Vista installed first)

Last reviewed: June 2013

October 2013: This is the new location for this page on this site. Please update your link or bookmark.

Introduction

This guide shows how to correctly and safely create a natural triple-boot of Windows Vista plus Windows XP and Windows Millennium or 98 on a computer with Windows Vista already installed. You can then run any of those three Windows by selecting one from a menu during bootup. No data loss will occur and a third-party boot utility is not used.

In this procedure you need to shrink the Windows Vista drive to make room for a Primary partition for Win98/Me on the first hard disk (and also for Windows XP unless you install it on a second hard disk). Using a second disk simplifies the procedure but it's not necessary. The example shown here uses a single hard disk.

32 and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista were used in testing The operating systems added were: Windows XP Professional SP2 or XP Home SP1, and Windows Millennium or 98SE. The computers used were (1) a 32-bit Dell Optiplex with Pentium 4 (2.26GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 160 GB ATA hard disk, and (2) AMD Athlon 64-bit (2.4GHz), 2.0 GB RAM, 1 TB SATA hard disk.

Following these instructions correctly should always succeed. However, any change to your computer should not even be considered unless your have a rescue plan. This guide also contains that rescue plan - just in case!

Only experienced computer users should attempt to create this triple-boot.

Users with 64-bit computer systems should note that they are unlikely to get 64-bit hardware drivers that work with Win98/Me. However, since all the x64 cpu's support x86 as well, you can dual-boot Win98/Me on a 64-bit computer provided you execute an extra few cold boots while the Win98/Me installation tries for compatibility - it finds a little, but not much. Some users will still find it worthwhile.


Important Installation Notes

Full Installation CD/DVDs. The Windows you are adding cannot be installed from Recovery or Repair CDs or DVDs provided by some OEMs. You need the full installation or setup version to install a Windows.

EasyBCD. The highly-acclaimed EasyBCD is a free editing utility that allows any user to easily edit the Windows 8, 7 or Vista boot menu (the BCD or Boot Configuration Data). Some settings, not used here, are very advanced. EasyBCD works in Windows 8, 7 and Vista, but also in Windows XP if you first install Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework.

Hidden Active Partition. Many Windows Vista users will have a small Primary disk partition(s) that's marked active and is hidden (but is visible under Disk Management in Windows Vista). This must be counted if you want to create a new Primary.

127 GB Partition Limitation in Windows 9x/Me
Windows 9x/Me must be installed on a Primary partition that starts before 127 GB from the beginning of the first hard disk. This physical limitation cannot be avoided.

Shrinking a Windows 8, 7 or Vista drive. You should use Shrink in Windows' Disk Management to resize the Windows partition. You can read Shrink the Windows 8. 7 or Vista Partition for instructions on completing this task successfully. Use the free GParted Live CD to gain disk space only if you must - read the page Use GParted to Resize the Windows 8, 7 or Vista Partition to learn how.

Formatting. All partitions should be created before you start installing any operating system (OS). The partition should be Formatted when installing that OS to ensure compatible file system versions. Avoid formatting Windows partitions with GParted or any other third-party partitioning utility.

Restore Points and Windows XP
While not essential, it's best practice to apply a fix to prevent Windows XP removing Restore Points created by Vista.

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Make a Partition Active

The Win98/Me FAT32 Primary partition is automatically marked as Active when Win98/Me is installed. After Win98/Me installation, the originally Active NTFS partition must be made Active again. And Fdisk may prove difficult!

It's very important you know how to do this BEFORE you install Win9x/Me. If you need help with this, read this page now and select the method that best suits your situation. You must be prepared for this in advance.

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Install Windows XP and 9x when Windows Vista is installed first

Installing other operating systems on your Windows Vista computer may invalidate your warrantee.

It's important to follow the instructions exactly as stated and you should have a properly working Windows.


Make your preparations

  1. Backup important data before making any changes to a partition. You can burn files to a CD, clone an image of your hard disk, copy files to a USB flash/pen/thumb drive, or use an USB external drive (a good choice)
  2. Plan your new partitions carefully.
  3. Download Microsoft's .NET 2.0 Framework (Dotnetfx.exe - free - required by XP to run EasyBCD).
    Download Neosmart's EasyBCD (free - it edits Win8/7/Vista boot loader).
    Optional: Download NeoSmart's free Windows Vista System Recovery Disk if your Vista DVD is missing!
  4. Download any essential device drivers for your older Windows.
  5. Disconnect all unnecessary external devices before you start.

Make free space and create new partitions

The single 160 GB disk usually used in testing initially had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Windows Vista (150 GB, Primary, NTFS). The Windows Vista drive was shrunk leaving about 40 GB Unallocated space at the end of the disk (to the right). After repartitioning it had: System Reserved (100 MB, Primary, Hidden, NTFS), Vista (120 GB, Primary, NTFS), Win98/Me (3 GB, Primary, FAT32), XP (10 GB, Logical, NTFS), Data (15 GB, Logical, NTFS).

When a single disk was less than 127 GB in size, the Win98/Me Primary partition was put at the end of the disk after the Logical partitions. This simplifies the removal of 9x/Me if/when required. You can install Windows XP on a Logical partition if you wish. You can also use a second hard disk for XP - the procedure will be similar to that described here.

Always note the size of each partition and also label each (this guide uses vsta, w_Me and w_XP).

  1. Restart computer correctly (close all programs before you Restart computer).
  2. Open Disk Management in Windows Vista (right-click Computer, select Manage, click Disk Management).
    • Right-click your CD/DVD drive(s), select Change drive letter and paths..., and click Change.
      Change the drive letter to K (get it out of the way!).
    • Right-click the Windows Vista Volume (probably C:), and select Properties.
      In the General tab, enter vsta as the label for the Windows Vista volume, and click Apply.
    • Right-click the vsta volume, and click Shrink Volume.
      • In Enter the amount of space to shrink in MB: enter enough for Win98/Me and XP.
        (make sure the Win9x partition starts before the 127 GB limit for that OS).
      • Click the Shrink button (it may take some time!).
      If Shrink does not give you sufficient Unallocated space, read how to Shrink the Windows 8, 7 or Windows Vista Partition for instructions or use the free GParted Live CD. Then return here.
    • If you need a fourth Primary partition, read Create a Fourth Primary partition
      - but remember, four Primaries means you cannot have any further partitions on that hard disk!
    • Right-click the Unallocated space and select New Simple Volume.... Click Next.
      • In Simple volume size in MB:, enter about 2000 (2 GB for Win98/Me). Click Next.
      • In File system, select FAT32 in the drop-down.
      • In Volume label, enter w_Me.
      • Tick to enable the Perform a quick format check box, and click Next.
      • Click Finish button.
    • In the same manner, create the other partitions using NTFS as the File system, and Label them
      (Disk Management will automatically create Logical partitions when those become necessary).
    • If you have a very large hard disk, you can create an extra Logical NTFS partition for data.
  3. Restart to Windows Vista.
    • Open Disk Management and check that the change made is correct.

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Installing the Operating Systems in this Windows Vista Multi-Boot

These pages show how to install each operating system in this multi-boot and how to use EasyBCD with each.

You can install the OSs in any order you wish but you should have already created all appropriate partitions. Installing an older OS first is suggested as this facilitates its easier removal if you decide not to continue with it.

The Windows Vista boot menu will now boot Windows Vista, XP or Win98/Me when selected.

Congratulations! You will have created a natural triple-boot of Windows Vista + XP + Win98/Me when Windows Vista was installed first.

Footnote: EasyBCD creates an NST folder on the root of the Windows Vista partition when it adds an operating system to the Windows Vista boot loader. This NST folder contains file(s) vital to booting added OSs. It must not be deleted.

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Related Reading

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Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

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